Friday, April 29, 2011

The Man-Cave Fridays presents Larry & Burt's Gut Rot: Episode Three

Welcome to the third installment of The Man-Cave Fridays! If you missed last week's episode, click here. For the next four weeks, I have partnered with the hilarious indie film making folks at SubProd in order to air their entire web series entitled Larry and Burt's Gut Rot.

So grab your pizza, get your beer off ice and relax to the hilarious works of Brett and Jason Butler in...


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kiss the Abyss (2010) is one you don't want to miss

When a husband’s deceased wife is resurrected, her need for blood becomes uncontrollable. Unable to keep her condition a secret from the rest of her well-to-do family, he attempts to find a solution from her re-animator.

The resurrection gone terribly wrong plot has been done a million times and you probably have seen many films with that same plot than you care to count. Let’s take a quick tally, shall we? There is Pet Semetary, Return of the Living Dead 3, Cemetary Man, Deadly Friend…this list could go on for days.

The good news is that director Ken Winkler treads on this familiar ground but knows when to jump into original territory with his debut effort Kiss the Abyss (Risen Pictures). This full length feature thankfully stays away from the usual zombie outbreak chaos that goes along with recent reanimation themes. Instead, Abyss concentrates on remaining faithful to character relationships, believable dialogue and a nice twist towards the end that changes the story’s landscape.

The film opens with three men riding in a vehicle to an undisclosed destination in some desert. A great deal of awkwardness exists between them, especially the older driver and the young man in the passenger seat. Even though the young man and the third passenger in the backseat are totally against all intentions, the driver is dead set on finishing what they started no matter what. It is not revealed where they are heading, but it is obvious that trouble will follow. 

Scenes with the three traveling men in the desert are intercut with scenes establishing the film’s characters. First we meet Mark (Scott Wilson), who is husband to the beautiful Lesley (Nicole Moore). They live in a small house located next to a couple straight out of the shows Cops, who sport subtle hints of abuse between them.  

After Mark involves himself in one of the neighbors’ domestic disputes, he unwittingly invites a world of pain into his life. When the boyfriend of the couple breaks into Mark and Lesley’s home to retaliate, he accidentally kills his wife Lesley during the struggle, setting the film into full motion.

Going back to the scene with the three men, they finally arrive at their destination and the characters’ identities are no transparent. The young man in the passenger seat is Mark, the driver is Lesley’s father Harold (James Mathers) and the third passenger is her brother Stephen (Scott Mitchell Nelson). We learn that the men have Lesley’s body on ice in the trunk and her wealthy father has arranged to bring her corpse to a man named Gus.

Through his mannerisms, attitudes and the fact that lives on some hillbilly wasteland paradise, it is easy to tell that Gus is a total shady sleazebag. Yet Harold has good reasons for handing him over a large amount of cash and his daughter’s lifeless body. Gus injects a syringe with some strange contrast agent to bring Lesley back from the dead. Even though something does not feel right, Harold feels is satisfied with the work performed by Gus, and they all head back homeward.

Against Harold’s wishes, Lesley decides to live with Mark and continue on their normal everyday lives. In turn against Mark’s wishes, Harold and Stephen refuse to disclose the truth to Lesley about what happened to her and what they did to reverse her dire situation by bringing her to Gus in the desert. 

This is when the film switches to usual formula, with Lesley starting to undergo a transformation and an overbearing need for flesh and blood. Mark’s attempt to hide Lesley’s condition fails miserably, thus forcing him to re-visit Gus. He hopes that the madman who brought her back to life can also help to stabilize her new existence. 

Abyss is like a bridge. The opening is engaging and starts at a major high. Then it dips a bit when the plot runs through familiar territory. Finally, the last act elevates it back to a high level with its originality. The conclusion was a bit awkward, but fitting given the circumstances of all the events that occurred throughout the film.    

The production level is impressive for an indie flick, with good cinematography and excellent special effects work. The acting is also pretty good, especially from Moore, whose character goes through some dynamic changes. 

Currently, Kiss The Abyss is available in Germany and Thailand. Unfortunately, Winkler and company are still attempting to obtain distribution in the U.S. and other territories, so keep your eyes out. A film this good is bound to get out there somehow, so keep this one in the back of your mind and watch it if you are lucky enough to get a chance.

3.5 out of 5 Creeper Santas


Official Site

Official Trailer:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scream 4 (2011): It's Finally a Scream Again, Baby!

The fourth installment finds Scream trilogy survivor Sidney Prescott back in Ghostface's crosshairs along with her young cousin. And this new killer is using a new set of "rules" to rack up the body count.

After viewing the somewhat eye-rolling Scream 2 and the awful Scream 3 Bck when they originally ran in theaters, the announcement of Scream 4 did not really generate any major excitement for this reviewer. However, the heavy influx of praise throughout the world of blogging sparked enough interest to not wait around for DVD to check it out. The original Scream is one of this site's top horror films of all-time, so with Wes Craven back in the directing chair and Kevin Williamson penning the script, would this installment rejuvenate the franchise and be a success? Or would this fourth installment go the way of Jaws The Revenge by damaging the franchise's integrity and cause future plans for Scream-ages to go belly up?

Neve Campbell returns in the lead as trilogy heroine Sidney Prescott at the tail end of her book tour, who revisits the same town in which events of the original took place. Meanwhile, Dewey (David Arquette) is the town’s sheriff, Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox-Arquette) career as an author has hit some still water and most importantly, the Ghostface murders have begun once again. This time, ol’ Ghostface is targeting Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and all of her friends, including Kirby played by Hayden Penettiere, who is trying to make everyone forget her horrible and long-haired cheerleader persona Claire from Heroes, as Kirby. Yes Kirby as in General Kirby from Commando, Kirby as in MLB legend Kirby Puckett and Kirby as in the lead character of the old video game Kirby’s Dream Land.

Back to the film, Gail sees these murders as the perfect inspiration for a new book. After Dewey and his deputy Judy Hicks (Planet Terror’s Marley Shelton) give her the snub, Gail even goes as far as teaming up with the heads of the local high school’s film club to get into the action. Essentially, she forms a unit with this generation’s Randy, but this “Randy” is a two-headed monster in the form of Robbie (Erik Knudsen) and Charlie (Rory Culkin). These two film geeks deduct that this new killer is following new “remake” rules, which is appropriate since this installment is a very much a remake as it is a sequel, and the killer’s use of video to record the kills.

A funny running joke is the never ending installments of the Stab films shown and discussed throughout this flick. If you remember, Stab is the in-movie film that was made based off the events of the first film. Now the sequels have reached all the way to Stab 7, with a completely ridiculous and confusing plot. This device is used to take shots at mindless horror sequels, cough-cough Saw, and serve up a large amount of cameos. 

Now is the perfect time to mention that Scream 4 is filled with more celebrity cameos than a Cannonball Run film, albeit for the younger generation. Here’s a quick list: Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Aimee Teegarden, Lucy Hale, Nancy O’Dell, Alison Brie, Mary McDonnell. Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, and Heather Graham…sort of. There are probably more appearances, but you get the point.

Does Scream 4 redefine the genre or set the world on fire with new groundbreaking territory? No. Absolutely not and if you are looking for that, you are barking up the wrong tree. Essentially, this film is nothing more than a nice trip down memory lane for old Scream fans to enjoy as well as those who appreciate an old fashioned "whodunit" slasher flick – something the film world has sadly been missing for a long time. It is best to set your phasers to stun and just be prepared to watch nothing more than a Scream installment. Enjoy lots of blood-n-guts, high volume of murders with a bit of comedy for good measure, in a newer version of  Scream's style. It’s like watching Friday the 13th sequels. We watch these to see Jason go on massive slaughters, not move us to tears with a dramatic monologue. Although that might be interesting to indulge.

This time around, the killer’s main motive is to top the original Stab, which mirrors the real life dynamic of recent remakes trying to overshadow their originals. It is a theme that works perfectly for this film since Scream 4 is attempting to return the franchise back to the glory days of the original. Now considering that this new killer is supposed to use updated technologies to outdo the previous killers, the webcasting was well integrated but it was odd that social networking played little to no relevance in this movie.

Some side notes to keep in mind is that there are references to the previous films, but none more than to the 1996 original. So make sure to at least see the first one if you haven’t yet before you jump headfirst into part 4. You definitely won’t appreciate it as much. Also, the real life drama between Courtney Cox and David Arquette was a bit distracting, considering recent events revolving around their separation, so you just have to turn off reality for a couple hours. Finally, here’s to hoping that we get to see Marielle Jaffe, who plays Jill’s friend Olivia, in more roles. She is a real beauty for the male population to gaze at.

Just like the predecessors, there are many suspects and clues throughout the film to help you guess the killer, both good and misleading hints, and a large body count. More importantly, the ending of Scream 4 contains the best killer reveal since Billy and Stu in kitchen of the original. And further to its benefit, this reveal is one that actually makes sense, with a punchline also worthy of a hearty laugh! That being said, while it was enjoyable, this reviewer is not drooling or frantically anticipating another sequel. In fact, any future Scream films will begin to potentially ride the thin line of becoming a franchise like Saw, which was mocked in this film as mentioned above.

But for right now, this is one to enjoy in a crowded theater full of enthusiastic moviegoers, so make sure to catch this one before it's gone.


3 out of 5 Ghostfaces

Cool review links:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Booze Review: Troegs JavaHead Stout


Subject: JavaHead Stout

Brewing Company: Tröegs in Harrisburg, PA

ABV:  7.5%

Location of Purchase: Pinocchio's Garden in Media, PA (3/20/11)

Date of Consumption: 3/24/11

Analysis: Deciding to try out something from a local brewery, I targeted Tröegs and was recommended their JavaHead Stout by the dudes at the Beer Garden. Since I have serious affinities for both caffeine and beer, this seemed like a no-brainer for me. Of course, I was prepared to taste something nasty but I was feeling braver than usual that day. Made with oats and coffee beans from a roaster in PA, I figured the ingredients combination did not seem like the ideal taste for beer and would probably result in an unpleasant taste.

Boy was I wrong. I thought this tasted great! The aroma reminded me of a strong espresso with a nice-sized with a melted piece of chocolate. I also sensed some spice I could not figure out…almost like a vanilla-type additive. Sounds strange, but the flavors blended well together.

Served in my pint glass, this stout is a very dark brown with an accompanying slightly cream-colored head. It was not heavily carbonated, but nowhere flat either.

Buzz Factor: I have a long record of buying creep beer with products for these Booze Reviews, or beer whose alcohol is masked well and “creeps” on you. You are okay one minute, then…WAM! JavaHead is no exception.

The alcohol bite is at a minimum and the coffee taste is very pleasing. The cool thing about this stout is that it reminds me of the initial effects when drinking a Four Loko. The caffeine hits your head before the alcohol, so when you are slightly feeling a little bit amped up, the alcohol buzz joins the party.

Final Verdict:  This was my first experience with Tröegs and after this successful first-run, it won’t be my last.

The above comparisons to chocolate, sweetness and coffee "tastes" should not discard the fact that this stout is 7.5%, so it’s not like having a dessert beer. The masked alcohol will get you eventually, providing a nice punch. If you switch to another beer, definitely stick with something light. I would usually recommend to stay with dark beer once you start with it, but remember the coffee beans involved. Too much dark beer with caffeine might have your tummy not feeling quite the best the morning after.

My only regret with buying this bottle (at a low $3.50 USD) was that I could have purchased a whole six-pack for a little more dough. However, my initial reaction to the ingredients made me reluctant to invest in several bottles. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, I really wished I just got the sixer.

It’s inexpensive, it tastes good and it packs a nice buzz, so you should give JavaHead Stout a shot. For those who are Four Loko-ites or those who like energy drinks with their alcohol, you should jump on this right away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicago Overcoat (2009)

An over-the-hill hitman makes a comeback in order to secure retirement funds for himself and his family, but his latest hits have garnered the attention of a detective who views solving this case as an avenue to better his life as well.

Old time gangster films seem to have gone way of the dinosaur ever since the last couple of seasons of The Sopranos left a bad taste in everyone's mouths. Sure there have been some modern day gangster flicks recently released, but the old school big city mafia subgenre has been M.I.A. for some time. Thankfully, director Brian Caunter has resurrected it with his film Chicago Overcoat (Beverly Ridge Pictures), released by MTI on DVD last Tuesday.

Lou Marazano, played with conviction by veteran genre actor Frank Vincent, is an elderly man whose glory days as one of the best hitmen for the Chicago Outfit, the city's best underground crime organization, are far behind him. He used to be known under the moniker of "The Flower Man" since his modus operandi was to send flowers to the widows of those he murdered. In the present day, he is relegated to simpler tasks by the Outfit with low payouts and is only given a fraction of the respect someone with his achievements for the organization deserves, since he did not play the political game too well with certain higher ups while in his prime. He has been eternally damned to the level of middle to low management and does not have a lot of money to show for his years of loyal service now in his golden years.

There are a lot of things happening in Lou's current life that is putting him at odds. First, he loves his daughter and grandson, both strapped for cash since the father is essentially a scumbag and deadbeat. They need money that Lou cannot simply provide them under his current circumstances. Secondly, he wants to say goodbye to Chi-town and live out his retirement in Las Vegas with longtime girlfriend Lorraine (Kathy Narducci), who wants a commitment from him and also to be more than just Frank's alibi for his shady jobs. In order to rectify all of these issues, Lou needs some serious cash intake. He asks the street boss Lorenzo (Mike Starr, Dumb & Dumber) to be assigned some big jobs like he held in his hey day, who simply scoffs at the idea because of Lou's age.

Little does he realize that his opportunity is about to come along after the Outfit's incarcerated head boss Stefano (veteran thespian Armand Assante in a cameo) orders key witnesses to vanish in order to keep major dealings between the city's officials, police force and the Outfit under wraps. This information's potential to leak has increased tenfold with the arrest of a union rep, and if it does reach the right people, Stefano might be looking at even more jail time then he already has ahead of him. Stefano orders Lorenzo to initiate the hits and Lou gets back on the horse to prove he still is the deadliest mobster around, no matter what the cost.

After Lou's first hit, everything seems to be going his way with business as usual, until Detective Ralph Maloney (Danny Goldring) and his much younger partner Elliot Walsh (Barret Walz) come along to investigate the murder. Something about this hit reminds the elderly Maloney of the unsolved mystery of the "Flower Man" murders back in the day. Solving this case now becomes Maloney's obsession in hopes of elevating his status from washed up foot detective and finally be promoted to captain. And the game is on.

Maloney and Marazano make excellent nemeses since their careers basically shadow each others' even though they play on different sides of the ball. Neither man ever raised their status to anything higher than being a mid level in their respected organizations and both have end game goals of earning respect and cash even though they are in the twilight of their lives. Their passionate dedications are equally matched, which makes for a great final showdown.

Just like Overcoat's tagline states, the glory days are back, and they certainly are, not only for the lead character but longtime fans of old fashioned mobster films. The plot is nothing new and the script is full of cliches for this type of film, but it is these cliches and plot line familiarity that fans of the genre will enjoy. At the same time, there is something about the way the story unfolds which feels very different and fresh.

It is absolutely baffling that this went straight to DVD, considering the engaging story, incredible acting from the entire cast and the production value. Explosions, gunfire and gore aside, the cinematography is phenomenal and the running time stands at a comfortable 94 minutes. This could very well have been released in theaters and again, it is a real surprise that this unknown gem finally saw the light of day two years later on DVD. In this case, better late than never.

There is no hesitation recommending Chicago Overcoat to anyone, even if you are not a die hard fan of gangster flicks. The story is extremely entertaining with good dialogue and solid action to deliver a fun movie going experience.

Be on the look out for another seasoned and extremely recognizable veteran actor Stacy Keach (Up in Smoke, Mike Hammer) in a small, yet important role as he assists Maloney in offering information to help his cause.


4 out of 5 Tommy Guns!


Buy It Now:

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Man-Cave Fridays presents Larry & Burt's Gut Rot: Episode Two

Welcome to the second installment of The Man-Cave Fridays! If you missed last week's episode, click here. For the next six weeks, I have partnered with the hilarious indie film making folks at SubProd in order to air their entire web series entitled Larry and Burt's Gut Rot.

So grab your pizza, get your beer off ice and relax to the hilarious works of Brett and Jason Butler in...


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Best Worst Movie (2009)

Meet George Hardy. He's the guy holding the sign

Hardy runs his own dental practice in the state of Alabama, has an enormous house, is loved by his employees, and is also a major hit with the townspeople when he does his rollerblading routine during the town’s annual parade. Oh, and he starred in the film Troll 2 back in 1990.

What? You’ve never seen Troll 2? It's horribly awesome! Here's my quickie review here.

Hardy and many other actors from the film are highlighted in the documentary Best Worst Movie, a look at the inconceivable cult following of Troll 2. Director Michael Stephenson, who played little Joshua in the 1990 flick but all grown up now, scoured the planet to locate all of the film’s key players in order to learn what they have been doing since the film’s release. His investigation leads to both entertaining and depressing results.

Besides the happy-go-lucky Hardy, the positive stories you get to witness include the many Troll 2 fanatics lining up for the midnight screenings all over the U.S. They have themed shirts, signs, props...the whole nine yards. There are also some Q and A sessions after some screenings where both the audience and the cast members look to be having an equally good time with their back and forth banter.

Best feels almost like a comedy of sorts towards the beginning, but then takes a serious turn around the midpoint. One particularly depressing scene involves Hardy and Stephenson’s visit with Margo Prey, who portrayed Diana Waits, and learns of her current predicament. Other heavy scenes include interviews with Don Packard and Rob Ormsby, who played the drugstore owner and Grandpa Seth respectively. Plus, Hardy and company's experiences at sci-fi and horror conventions are also a bit of a downer. For example, when Hardy goes off on a tangent about how he does not want to be like most actors who are living off the one film they starred in 20 years ago. Funny thing is that the rant is initiated by his discussions with co-stars of old Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, like Erika Anderson and Toy Newkirk.

More on-screen fireworks explode every time Troll 2 writer/director Claudio Fragasso and his wife Rossella Drudi, who also co-wrote the screenplay, show up in this flick. Without giving too much away, Claudio blames the actors for the film’s perceived crappy image and in turn, the actors throw Claudio’s stubborn direction under the bus every chance they get. During the film’s last leg, there is a clash between these two sides at a Q and A session and the scene is about as comfortable as when you get those hard plastic things shoved in your mouth for dental x-rays. Also try not to laugh when Claudio describes the “deeper” meaning of Troll 2, as if he had Godfather-like intentions. For the uninitiated, Fragasso has a long history of making some bombs over his native Italy, so Troll 2’s reputation should not be a surprise to anyone who is aware of his resume.

The only qualm with Best is that every key player in the film is interviewed except for Deborah Reed. She appears in a special features vignette, but since she played the film’s main villain Creedence, it would have been nice to learn a bit more about her in the actual film. Her absence was a bit distracting.

Troll 2 is considered one of the worst films ever made. In fact, if you look up the term “hot mess” in the Urban Dictionary, there is a picture of the town Nilbog from the movie looking right back at you. The film is called Troll 2, yet there are no “Trolls” and it is not a sequel to the original Troll. So the film has two strikes against it coming out of the gate, yet the film still holds some mystical charm to it.

Whether you enjoy watching Troll 2 as a stupid and fun little movie or as in "watching a train wreck" or even if you have never seen it before, it doesn't matter. Best Worst Movie is definitely worth checking out.

4 out of 5 Creeper Santas



Official Site 


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Booze Review: Asylum by Left Coast Brewing Company

Subject: Asylum

Brewing Company: Left Coast

ABV: 11.00%

Location of Purchase: Pinocchio's Garden in Media, PA (3/20/11)

Date of Consumption: 4/2/11

Analysis: I picked up this Belgian-style tripel ale off the usual label appeal I am accustomed to. The site of a closed off, dark gate leading to some strange facility reeled me in like a bass hungry for some food on an August morning. More importantly, I have been really digging Belgian brew lately and the 11% APV indicated that this ale was going to take me to all kinds of places from the comfort of The Man-Cave.

The beer distributors could not give me a recommendation on Asylum, so I knew that I was flying into some uncharted territory drinking this monstrosity. And this was also my first beer I ingested from Left Coast.

After being poured into my large mug, you can immediately notice Asylum’s murky consistency. The taste is a pleasant mix of honey and fruit.  No bitterness is evident and the after taste is not overbearing on your buds.

Buzz Factor: For ale with such high alcohol content, the alcohol is well masked…maybe a little too well. It is smooth and travels down your throat nice and easy. Due to this dynamic, the alcohol hits you pretty fast and has you feeling extremely happy after your fourth chug. 

Final Verdict: This is not to be confused with The Asylum production company, who are notorious for intentionally making knockoff films of big Hollywood movies around the time of their release to cash in on the bigger film’s success.

For a low price ($7 USD), you get a decent bang for your buck. If you have two of these bad boys, call it a night. The masked alcohol taste and heavy buzz will have you feeling pretty normal when you are actually pretty krunked. Also, this a lead off beer, meaning that if you have a bottle and you are up for a night of drinking, start off with Asylum and if you need to have some more beer during the rest of the evening, stay with lighter brew.

As a mid-level beer, this one is good to try for a low cost/high alcohol attempt. 

Asylum...drink it if you dare! BWAH-HAHAHA!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Product Review: Retro Planet provides a galaxy of cool gifts!


Ah…baseball is back in full swing, summer is just around the corner and I could not be happier right now, minus hitting the Mega Lotto. As my Phightin’ Phils gear up for another run at the MLB postseason, the wonderful people over at Retro Planet surprisingly sent me over a gift right in time for Opening Day. Check this out!

I’m always reporting from The Man-Cave, but I actually have a house in which I dwell most of the time and decorating it is just as important as decking my ‘Cave’s hallowed halls. Last fall, an accidental occurrence caused my front glass door to shatter all over my walkway and saturated my doormat with glass shards in the process. The mat was basically useless and I had to trash it. For months, I have been searching for something out of the ordinary to replace it…and Retro Planet delivered like a Roy Halladay cutter.

For years, I have always told people that making a welcome mat stating “HOME” in the shape of home plate would be the coolest idea ever, but looks like RP beat me to it! If someone developed this concept prior, I have never seen it and trust me when I say that I’ve looked for one of these over the last several MLB seasons.

My new HOME plate arrived ahead of schedule in the most sturdy of packaging. It’s probably impossible to “break” a rug, but their box and inserts would not allow any type of bending or anything else that could possibly damage it. When I pulled it out the packaging, my mat looked like I just took it down off some nearby store shelf, unharmed and brand spanking new.

Retro Planet caters to both men and women, so you can happily get lost in their site for days. Here is a short list of some of the items they have in inventory:

Marvel Superhero items
Classic Rock Band and Reggae stuff
Standalone bars…yes actual bars you can install in your crib
Bar glass sets
Lamps (like the A Christmas Story leg lamp)
Complete vintage booths (like something out of the diners in Grease or Back to the Future)

I said you can get happily lost all day viewing their site, meanwhile I can go on for a year if I keep listing everything they have there for sale in this post.

Boys, girls, young, old…no matter what demographic you fall in, you will find something that entices you at Retro Planet. And the prices are not that expensive…except the bars and booths. But those are complete bar and booth sets!

Check out Retro Planet by clicking on the banner (right below) or in this site's sidebar.
Cool Retro Gifts and Decor from

If this sounds like a review, well, it is. I don’t review crap, ok except for some of the bad films I endure. So let me rephrase that stating that I do not support crap and I want to get a good word for Retro Planet out in the intrawebs. Check it out and I promise it will be a fun way for you to kill productivity and pick up some cool warez.

I will probably hold a giveaway here for Retro Planet, so be on the lookout for that in the next couple weeks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Man-Cave Fridays presents Larry & Burt's Gut Rot: Episode One

Welcome to the first installment of The Man-Cave Fridays! For the next six weeks, I have partnered with the hilarious indie film making folks at SubProd in order to air their entire web series entitled Larry and Burt's Gut Rot.

So grab your pizza, get your beer off ice and relax to the hilarious works of Brett and Jason Butler in...


Pizza Driver, Raging Fool from Substance Production on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Outtake Reel (2010) is a reel that should be left in

Behind the scenes footage of a horror maestro's latest film creates the narrative for a faux documentary on a murder of the film's lead actress.

It sounds all so familiar on paper. Mockumentary/faux documentary...check. Found footage...check. Footage surrounds a murder mystery...check.

Yes it all sounds so familiar, until you actually start watching Scott Feinblatt and Jeffry Chaffrin's latest flick Outtake Reel (Dervish Pictures and Backyard Films). Soon the potential comparisons and staleness fly out the window while an intake of freshness fills in as a replacement, providing a needed change from the norm.

The premise for this film is that we, the audience, are watching a documentary made by eccentric filmmaker Jonas Wolfschitz. He has taken a variety of footage collected from various sources to tell the story behind the murder of Ashley Swan, the lead actress of an unfinished horror project entitled My Brother's Keeper. Video sources include behind-the-scenes footage of Keeper, audition reels and personal video diaries, which are all exhibit material made available for the case of The State of California v. Thomas Grayson, the film's director who apparently is responsible for Ashley's death.

Throughout a majority of the film, the behind the scenes footage is our main narrative, filmed by Tom Grayson (co-director and producer Scott Feinblatt) fan and film making enthusiast Danny Wilson (co-director Jeffry Chaffin). Danny pleads, and flat out begs, his case to Grayson in order to force himself on the set to shoot a documentary for the making-of My Brother's Keeper, thus setting our story is under way.

In the first act, Grayson struggles with the notion of making a horror film that breaks all stereotypes. He wants an intelligent story while skipping on T-n-A as well as gore because he believes in his mind that he can make a great horror film without relying on the usual genre cliches.

A short time after principal photography starts, Grayson is already behind schedule and fires lead actor Joe (William Morse) for his lack of focus on the set. His dismissal up-shifts Ashley from humble to diva since an intimate relationship between the two seemed on the verge, leaving Grayson without the acting prowess he needs from his young thespian.

Meanwhile, Danny is essentially our eyes and ears to the whole show. At first, he comes off as a bit of a goofball, like when he tells Grayson that he needs boobs and blood to make a successful horror flick. In conjunction, he completely annoys Ashley only to wind up befriending her after Joe's firing. This is when Danny's behavior morphs from goofball to creepily peculiar and his role as a bystander turns into one of a lead player.

First, let's get the negative out of the way. The acting from Feinblatt and Chaffin is honestly not that strong especially during the first couple of acts. This is a problem because these two actors' lines comprise most of the film's dialogue. Feinblatt does a better job than Chaffrin, who was extremely irritating with his unbelievable line delivery towards the beginning of the film. However, two things need to be mentioned here:

1) One should never hold indie filmmakers to low budget restrictions especially in terms of acting


2) Feinblatt and Chaffin were successful in their main job of developing an entertaining story, since above all else, they are the directors and Feinblatt also multitasks as the producer.

To use a baseball analogy, that would be like offering major criticism to a pitcher who throws a shutout even though he does not get a hit in any of his at-bats. Pitching is his number one responsibility and only bats 9th to fill the lineup gap and that same logic applies to Feinblatt and Chaffin. Their main priority is to create an entertaining film and they accomplish that. The only other flaw with this film is lack of the Joe character. That character was great!

The positives are plenty. Reel is a fresh take on the found footage-esque films that have flooded the market. It contains an original approach where the story is played out through several video sources and not the usual mysteriously recovered footage rehash. There are also a lot of neat little ideas thrown in here, such as The Ashley Swan Memorial Fund ad and an interesting shopping spree at Home Depot. There is also a website telling the events leading up to the movie in the vein of Blair Witch/Last Broadcast, which is pretty well executed and should be checked out prior to watching the film.

More positives include the running time being satisfactory and Ava Santana. She is beautiful and nice to look at for the film's duration while effectively playing a multi-layered character. For the rest of the credited acting talent, let's just say that if you are simply watching this for Tiffany Shepis or Lloyd Kaufman, please understand that they are only in cameo roles. Kaufman's scene is great though and worth checking out!
Outtake Reel is currently being shopped around, so unfortunately there is nowhere to direct you to buy it just yet. In the meantime, check out:

3.5 out of 5 Creeper Santas

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Man-Cave Remembers: It Came From the Desert

Who doesn't love 50's giant monster B-movies? Imagine being the star of your very own monster movie where you ultimately make the decisions to make your film have a happy ending? Look no further than this classic. I fell in love with the game It Came From the Desert by Cinemaware back in the early 90's on the Amiga and played this game into the ground. Even to this day, the graphics don't really hold up to some of the current technology but the gameplay is just as fun now as it was back then. So let's take a trip down memory lane.

For the uninitiated, It Came From the Desert is a game about a meteor that crashes near the rural town of desert town of Lizard Breath and mutates the area's ants to grow the size of double decker buses. You assume the role of scientist/geologist Greg Bradley, who uncovers the truth about these giant ants and desperately tries to warn the townsfolk before it's too late. Of course they think you've lost your damn mind. This game is like Jaws with huge ants!

Here is a clip of the game's opening which really sets the mood:

You cannot technically "die" in Desert, with the exception of a few special endings, but things are still one stressful pressure cooker due to the game taking place in real time. The ants have to be taken out in a certain time limit, so one slip up and your character ends up in the hospital for lengthy amount of time. While you don't actually "die", losing time extremely detrimental to completing the game and these hospital visits can ruin your game. So try to stay healthy! Failure to locate and eliminate the nest within the set time limit leads to Lizard Breath becoming one giant anthill. And you certainly don't want that to happen to these rubes, do you?

The gameplay itself is very interesting because you either interact with people, travel to town locations using the map, or play mini games that affect the progress of your game at the most random times. Not to mention the most inconvenient times as well. Sure the character interactions are great as they determine your relationships and proper storyline progression, but the mini games are the easily best part of the game.

The mini-games include: escaping the hospital (so you don't lose any unnecessary time), flying a plane to usually inaccessible areas through the map, having a knife fight with the local greasers, or combating a mega ant - make sure to only shoot at their antennas. There are some other scattered games throughout, but these are the creme de la creme.

Once you are able to locate the nest, you enter the final stage of the game. Your character travels deep into the labyrinth with only a limited amount of fuel for your flamethrower. Remember your way in, because once you locate the Queen and set the bomb, you have a short amount of time to get out and leave enough space between you and the nest before KABOOM! Failure to do so is the end of your journey and even worse, you will have to start all the way at the beginning of the game to try again.

Cinemaware always made games that seemed to play out like old school movies -  thus the company's name. That was the charm of their games. Besides Desert, they also created hits like The Three Stooges, Defenders of the Crown and Rocker Ranger.

Desert was followed by a sequel of sorts, an add-on that preceded the downloadable content we see for consoles today. Cinemaware offered an opportunity to mail money along with a form to them and in turn, they would send you back disks to install the sequel. Unfortunately, I have never played the follow up, which explored a new story with familiar characters from the original and something about things called "antheads". I would to get my hands on this game one day.

There were some other live action attempts on PC and console games that tried to capitalize off the original's success, but none of them received an iota of success achieved by the 1980's version. And for some reason, Cinemaware unfortunately went out of business. It would be great to see their ideas for games with our current technological advancements.

If you want to see the game played out in its entirety, you can access the complete walk-through from Youtube below. And if you have any memories of this gaming classic, please comment and share the love.